Tag Archives: succession planning

Successful Nonprofit Arts Organizations, Like Successful Buildings, Depend on Successful Hierarchies

Gaudi

Level One:

Bricklayers.  Carpenters.  Stagehands.  Electricians.  Actors.  Musicians.  Painters.  Singers.  Writers.

Easy to find hacks.  Difficult to find experts.  Project-based.

 

Level Two:

Foremen.  Department heads.  Designers.  Curators.  Musical directors.

Small universe of successful ones.  More skills required.  Still project-based.  Work toward a larger goal than Level One, namely a finished piece.  Excellent collaboration skills.

 

Level Three:

Contractors.  Directors.

Smaller universe still.  Hire and manage Level One and Two (no requirement to perform at their skill level).  Work toward a slightly larger picture, although still project based.

 

Level Four:

Architects.  Executive/Artistic/General/Producing Directors.

Scarce universe of specialists.  Determine “what.”  Hire Level Three – several Level Threes, in fact.  Understand projects, themes, and cohesion.

 

Level Five:

Owners.  Boards.

Tiny, zealous universe.  Hire Level Four.  Determine “how.” Has personal stake.

 

Level Six:

The Community.  The Mission.

Top of the hierarchy.  Determines “why.”

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Artists vs. Craftspeople – Nonprofit Arts Organizations Require the Former to Act as the Latter

hat

Artists produce work from their creative souls, nurtured by a series of cultural, environmental, and psychological motivations.  They create “a hat,” as Stephen Sondheim once wrote, “where there never was a hat.”  Talented artists create from their current state of mind, without boundary.

Craftspeople produce work to fill a need.  They possess a series of cultural, environmental, and psychological motivations which channel into art that produces a desired impact.  Craftspeople create hats because they’re the best answer to a question.

All craftspeople are artists at their core.  Many artists have no capacity to become craftspeople.

Nonprofit arts organizations require craftspeople.  If the organization is more important than any artist, and the mission is more important than the organization, then employees on the organizational chart need to be, by definition, craftspeople divining an impact, not artists divining inspiration.

Feedback from You (yes, you): 9 Words That Describe the Nonprofit Arts Issues That Are Placing You at the End of Your Rope

rope

This blog, as most are, is pretty much one-way.  I share experiences, advice, consultation, and observations; you read ’em.  I can discuss 1,000 issues that affect nonprofit arts organizations.

But that’s me.

What keeps you up at night?

What concrete issue (not just “there’s no funding for…”) is fraying your rope?  Or better, what issues are figuratively tying a noose around the end of your rope?

Here’s your assignment.  In 9 words (no more, no less), write that issue and send it to info@137words.com.  That’s it.  Beginning in August, we’ll periodically take each issue and I’ll give my take.  Then we’ll open up the discussion to everyone who reads 137 Words.  Let me know if you’d like your name in or if you’d like to be anonymous.  And if you’d like my help privately, let me know that, too.

Transformational Persuasion: Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Why It Matters – Especially When You’re Running an Arts Organization

ali

Muhammad Ali died last week.  A quote from a Zairian in “When We Were Kings.”

“George Foreman? We had heard he was a world champion.
We thought he was white, then we realized he was black, like Ali….
Ali said [about Foreman], you’re the out-of-towner here.”

Nonprofit leaders that manage organizations, programs, and people well can be quite successful.  But not transformational.  Transformational leaders effortlessly persuade with passion about the mission, not the statistics.  Their material requires no script, just practice to remove the “ums” and “uhs.”

Trump, for example, vigorously (and effortlessly) transforms experienced opponents into “out-of-towners.” Clinton relies on effective policy, experience, and “being right.”

Passion KOs policy every time.  Ask George Foreman.

Doesn’t your arts organization’s constituency deserve the most transformative experience you can offer?  Or do you settle for production excellence and competence?

Talk to Me Like I’m 10: a Lesson in Long-Term Planning for Artistic Directors and Board Chairs

talk to me like I'm 10.jpg

Does long-term planning cause a rift between your artistic director and those other people?

Does it cause discord between your board chair and those other people?

Seen all the time among arts charities:  carefully (and successfully) executed annual development plans reduced to rubble after the board institutes a high-priced capital campaign.  The capital campaign sucks up all in its path, causing 5 years of stakeholder repair.  Indispensable Chair happy.  Staff leaves.

Artistic directors substituting their taste for vision and their personal and professional relationships for core values.  Idiosyncrasy obviates mission.  Indispensable AD happy.  Board leaves.

Both cases: company imperiled, stakeholders leaving.

Time to create an action plan, written at a 5th grade level.  Make it about impact rather than income.  Test the theory that your arts nonprofit is indispensable.  Make sure that your most important stakeholders don’t leave.

Arts Organizations: 137th Post, 137 Thanks, and 137 (of Other People’s) Words That Guide Inspiring Leaders

erasse2

“We must reject the idea — well-intentioned, but dead wrong – that the primary path to greatness in the social sectors is to become “more like a business.” Most businesses…fall somewhere between mediocre and good.” (Collins)

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” (Thoreau)

“People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.” (Sinek)

“When they say things like, we’re going to do this by the book, you have to ask, what book? Because it would make a big difference if it was Dostoevsky or, you know, ‘Ivanhoe.'” (Anderson)

“‘To be is to do.’ (Socrates)  ‘To do is to be.’ (Sartre)  ‘Do be do be do.’ (Sinatra)” [Vonnegut compilation]

Arts Boards: What to do When Your Arts Leader(s) No Longer Know the Difference Between Boredom and Discipline

Audience-clapping

Your theater produced a hit.  Tickets sold out for days.  Extended as far as you could.

Do it again next year?

No.  Your outward-facing mission execution is more important than the sales of any one play.  Gauge this particular play and its impact.  If it’s a fit (not just a hit), consider rescheduling the next production and run this play until its inevitable end.  Then close it forever.

If all your plays are mission-driven, every experience is predictable in its impact.  That’s called discipline, and it’s what makes arts organizations successful.

Too many artistic directors choose to produce vanity events instead.  That’s called boredom, and board chairs have to act on that kind of crisis in leadership.

Coke may make many products, but they still make Coke.  Remember what happened when they got bored with Coke’s taste?

Growth – Please retire the following phrase…

next level

The following phrase should be banished, at least in nonprofit arts organizations:  “Taking Our Organization to the Next Level.”  To be blunt, it’s an empty goal, often undefined and misleading, and let’s face it, profoundly stupid.

Consider asking the next person who uses it, “Why would you?”

Then ask, “Are you planning on changing the way you do business?”  Then ask for a definition of “next level.”  Then ask what has kept the organization from achieving that already.

Are they rationalizing a way to do what they’ve always done, only harder, and somehow experiencing growth?

Growth is usually defined as increased depth or breadth (rarely both).  Forcefully choose goals with great specificity.  Make your choice obvious; don’t aim for subtlety.

When troubled potential constituents notice no change, they will offer no path to growth.

Why would they?

Nonprofit Arts Leaders: 137 Powerful Verbs for your Mission or Programs – Instead of Hyperbolic or Aspirational Adjectives. (Boring Headline, Yes?)

Verb

Accelerate

Achieve

Acquire

Advance

Advise

Advocate

Align

Amplify

Analyze

Arbitrate

Assemble

Assess

Attain

Audit

Award

Boost

Build

Calculate

Campaign

Capitalize

Chart

Clarify

Coach

Complete

Compose

Conserve

Consolidate

Consult

Convert

Convey

Convince

Coordinate

Correspond

Counsel

Create

Cultivate

Customize

Decrease

Deduct

Define

Delegate

Deliver

Demonstrate

Design

Develop

Devise

Diagnose

Discover

Document

Earn

Educate

Enable

Enforce

Engineer

Enhance

Ensure

Establish

Evaluate

Examine

Exceed

Execute

Explore

Facilitate

Forecast

Forge

Formulate

Foster

Further

Gain

Generate

Guide

Identify

Illustrate

Implement

Improve

Incorporate

Influence

Inform

Initiate

Inspect

Inspire

Integrate

Interpret

Introduce

Investigate

Launch

Lift

Lobby

Maximize

Measure

Mentor

Merge

Mobilize

Modify

Monitor

Motivate

Navigate

Negotiate

Orchestrate

Organize

Overhaul

Partner

Persuade

Pioneer

Plan

Produce

Program

Promote

Qualify

Quantify

Reconcile

Recruit

Reduce

Refine

Replace

Resolve

Revamp

Review

Scrutinize

Shape

Simplify

Stimulate

Strengthen

Succeed

Supervise

Surpass

Survey

Sustain

Target

Teach

Track

Train

Transform

Unite

Update

Verify

Yield

Life on the Unraveling Nonprofit Arts Fringe: Why Hiring Experience and Guile Trumps Everything Else

Actor Hugh O’Brian is said to have coined “The 5 Stages of an Actor’s Career;”

  1. Who is Hugh O’Brian?
  2. Get me Hugh O’Brian.
  3. Get me a Hugh O’Brian type.
  4. Get me a young Hugh O’Brian.
  5. Who is Hugh O’Brian?

We’re in contact with hundreds of highly-experienced, resilient people who have made a career in the arts – and they’re having difficulties getting back into the field.

Some of it is ageism. Boards use headhunters to find smart young guns to lead departments or organizations — only to find that instead, they’ve hired brilliant 2-year placeholders with few people skills, entitlement issues, little flexibility, and quick parachutes.

Studies show those >50 stay longer than those under <40, are more productive, have better improvisational skills and flexibility, and are likelier to bring success.

Forget headhunters.  Do your own search.  Hire someone better than you.

I died this morning.

square

I was an energetic, charismatic, visionary leader.
I worked at least 60 hours a week.
The office is by turns chaotic and paralyzed.
Some are crying.
Some are ecstatic.

Outside the charity, most don’t care.
Not their problem.

Trustees are panicking. Staff members are traumatized.
Some are taking charge, Alexander Haig-style.
Others are forming committees to decide what to decide.
Still others are composing resignations.
Reporter on line 1.

I knew every board and staff member.
And their families.
I knew every major donor.
I knew local foundation leaders.
Benefactors on line 2.
Beneficiaries on line 3.

I knew financials.
I knew history.
I had passwords.
Vendors on line 4.

I knew where everything was.
I shared that information.
But that was 5 years ago.
To employees who are no longer here.
Too bad there wasn’t a written succession policy.

Not my problem.

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